In , a new government came to power in Turkey. According to this way of thinking, non-Turks — and especially Christian non-Turks — were a grave threat to the new state. At the same time, Ottoman religious authorities declared a holy war against all Christians except their allies.
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Military leaders began to argue that the Armenians were traitors: If they thought they could win independence if the Allies were victorious, this argument went, the Armenians would be eager to fight for the enemy. As the war intensified, Armenians organized volunteer battalions to help the Russian army fight against the Turks in the Caucasus region. On April 24, , the Armenian genocide began. That day, the Turkish government arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals. After that, ordinary Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water.
Frequently, the marchers were stripped naked and forced to walk under the scorching sun until they dropped dead. People who stopped to rest were shot. These killing squads were often made up of murderers and other ex-convicts. They drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive.
Armenian Genocide of 1915: An Overview
In short order, the Turkish countryside was littered with Armenian corpses. Muslim families moved into the homes of deported Armenians and seized their property. Though reports vary, most sources agree that there were about 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the massacre. In , when the genocide was over, there were just , Armenians remaining in the Ottoman Empire.
Armenians in Eastern Anatolia
After the Ottomans surrendered in , the leaders of the Young Turks fled to Germany, which promised not to prosecute them for the genocide. However, a group of Armenian nationalists devised a plan, known as Operation Nemesis, to track down and assassinate the leaders of the genocide. Ever since then, the Turkish government has denied that a genocide took place. The Armenians were an enemy force, they argue, and their slaughter was a necessary war measure. Today, Turkey is an important ally of the United States and other Western nations, and so their governments have likewise been reluctant to condemn the long-ago killings.
In March , a U. A later law allowed the confiscation of abandoned Armenian property. Armenians were ordered to turn in any weapons that they owned to the authorities. Those in the army were disarmed and transferred into labor battalions where they were either killed or worked to death. There were executions into mass graves, and death marches of men, women and children across the Syrian desert to concentration camps with many dying along the way of exhaustion, exposure and starvation.
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Much of this was quite well documented at the time by Western diplomats, missionaries and others, creating widespread wartime outrage against the Turks in the West. Although its ally, Germany, was silent at the time, in later years documents have surfaced from ranking German diplomats and military officers expressing horror at what was going on.
Some historians, however, while acknowledging the widespread deaths, say what happened does not technically fit the definition of genocide largely because they do not feel there is evidence that it was well-planned in advance. The American ambassador, Henry Morganthau Sr. Following the surrender of the Ottoman Empire in , the Three Pashas fled to Germany, where they were given protection.
But the Armenian underground formed a group called Operation Nemesis to hunt them down. On March 15, , one of the pashas was shot dead on a street in Berlin in broad daylight in front of witnesses.
The gunman pled temporary insanity brought on by the mass killings and a jury took only a little over an hour to acquit him. As the persons seized that night included the most prominent public figures of the Armenian community in the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, everyone was alerted about the dimensions of the policies being entertained and implemented by the Turkish government. Their death presaged the murder of an ancient civilization. April 24 is, therefore, commemorated as the date of the unfolding of the Armenian Genocide.
Because the U.
The Armenian Genocide (): Overview | The Holocaust Encyclopedia
Convention was adopted in , thirty years after the Armenian Genocide, Armenians worldwide have sought from their respective governments formal acknowledgment of the crimes committed during W. Countries like France, Argentina, Greece, and Russia, where the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and their descendants live, have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. However, as a matter of policy, the present-day Republic of Turkey adamantly denies that a genocide was committed against the Armenians during W.
Moreover, Turkey dismisses the evidence about the atrocities as mere allegations and regularly obstructs efforts for acknowledgment. Affirming the truth about the Armenian Genocide, therefore, has become an issue of international significance. The recurrence of genocide in the twentieth century has made the reaffirmation of the historic acknowledgment of the criminal mistreatment of the Armenians by Turkey all the more a compelling obligation for the international community.
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The Armenian Genocide (1915-16): Overview
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